To detect tooth decay, your dentist typically employs various methods. They will inquire about any tooth pain or sensitivity you may be experiencing. Then, they will conduct a thorough examination of your mouth and teeth, using dental instruments to probe for soft areas that might indicate decay. Additionally, they will analyze dental X–rays to assess the extent of cavities and decay. By combining these techniques, your dentist can determine the type of cavity you have—whether it’s a smooth surface, pit and fissure, or root cavity.
Regular dental checkups can find cavities and other dental problems early, stopping them from getting worse. Getting care early makes it more likely to stop early tooth decay and keep it from getting worse. Fixing cavities before they hurt can usually avoid needing lots of treatment.
The treatment for cavities varies based on their severity and individual circumstances. The available treatment options include:
- Fluoride treatments. In the early stages of a cavity, a fluoride treatment can be beneficial in restoring the enamel of the affected tooth and potentially reversing the cavity. Professional fluoride treatments have a higher concentration of fluoride compared to what is typically found in tap water, toothpaste, or mouth rinses. These treatments come in various forms, such as liquid, gel, foam, or varnish, which are applied directly to the teeth or placed in a tray that covers the teeth.
- Fillings. When decay has progressed beyond its earliest stage, the primary treatment option is fillings, also known as restorations. Fillings can be crafted from different materials, including tooth–colored composite resins, porcelain, or dental amalgam, which is a combination of several materials.
- Crowns. When dealing with significant tooth decay or weakened teeth, a dental crown may be necessary. A crown is a specially fitted covering that replaces the entire natural crown of your tooth. To ensure a proper fit, your dentist will remove all the decayed portion and a sufficient amount of the remaining tooth structure. Crowns can be crafted from various materials such as gold, high–strength porcelain, resin, porcelain fused to metal, or other suitable substances.
- Root canals. When the decay reaches the inner material of your tooth, known as the pulp, a root canal procedure may be necessary. This treatment aims to salvage a severely damaged or infected tooth rather than extracting it. During the procedure, the diseased tooth pulp is carefully removed, and if there’s an infection, medication may be applied to cleanse the root canal thoroughly. Subsequently, the space left by the removed pulp is filled with a suitable dental filling material. The goal of a root canal is to restore the tooth’s health and function effectively.
- Dental extractions. Severe tooth decay can lead to the need for extraction, leaving an empty space that may cause adjacent teeth to shift. To prevent this issue, it’s advisable to explore options like dental implants or bridges to replace the missing tooth. These solutions can help maintain the alignment and integrity of your remaining teeth.